Palantir CEO Alex Karp on fighting with Peter Thiel and progressives

As U.S. companies and leaders publicly address hot political topics, Palantir CEO Alex Karp said many are still struggling to determine when to speak up and when not.

“Companies have the problem that it’s very difficult for them to tie what they produce to a higher mission, and as a result, they can’t exactly decide where they should speak and where they can’t. -be not to speak out,” Karp said. CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin at the Aspen Ideas Festival this week. “Then there are just general issues, if you’re using our product for things we don’t support, we think we need to talk about it.”

The call for corporations to take a stand on social issues has only increased in recent years, most recently around abortion following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last week.

Karp, who noted he was pro-choice, said Palantir has always “planned for people to leave states or go to places where their rights are protected, and we pay for people and their families to move if they need access to medical treatment or abortions.”

Karp also explained how the differing opinions have played out in his own business with Palantir co-founder Peter Thiel, one of the biggest donors to Republican candidates in recent years. Thiel was also on the executive committee of President Donald Trump’s transition team, which Karp criticized publicly and privately.

“One of the problems in this country is that there aren’t enough people like Peter and me; we’ve been fighting for 30 years,” Karp said. “You have to take the political dialogue and then the business dialogue, we tend to have similar assumptions but not always the same interpretation. … I really enjoy my talk with Peter on areas where I think he is the best at the world, and we don’t agree politically.”

Alex Karp, CEO of Palantir, arrives ahead of a ‘Tech For Good’ meeting at the Marigny hotel in Paris on May 15, 2019, to discuss the good behavior of tech giants.

Bertrand Guay | AFP | Getty Images

Karp acknowledged that while he “got in trouble” for some of the things he said publicly about Trump, it was also insights gained from talking with people like Thiel that made him believe Trump was going to win in 2016.

“I think it’s a huge problem in our society; I’d love to hear what anyone else thinks, and by the way I think I’m right, so if you have your point, we can. discuss,” he said. “I think a lot of my progressive friends have a little inferiority complex – if you’re right, why do you care to engage with someone who’s wrong? I like that.”

“I have some pretty strong opinions; prove me wrong, I’d love to hear it,” he said.

While companies are criticized by politicians for sharing views they disagree with, as in the case of Disney and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a company like Palantir which has much of its business with the public sector and governments could potentially face similar backlash.

While holding government contracts hasn’t stopped SpaceX CEO Elon Musk from criticizing a permanent president, Karp said part of the problem stems from companies speaking out on issues that don’t fall under of their general objective.

“We have all these people telling me I shouldn’t speak publicly about a lot of issues, and I speak quite freely about all kinds of things that could get me in trouble and I think our customers are very tolerant about that.” , Karp said. . “But they also know I’m in the business… the most important issues right now are issues where I have a modicum of expertise.”

Karp said those issues are: “What will the world look like if our opponents win, or if we win? Under what conditions will the software be implemented? Will this software deprive us of our civil liberties? How can this software protect our civil liberties? “

“On these issues I talk all the time,” he said.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal News Group is the media partner of the Aspen Ideas Festival.

Leave a Comment